Maryanne Redpatch was born in New Zealand in 1957 and has been living and working in Berlin since 1985. After gaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Classical Studies and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Drama in New Zealand, Redpath moved to Sydney where she deepened her knowledge of theater at the Drama Action Center. During the 1980s and early 1990s, she worked as a multi-media performance artist, a theater technician, taught drama to handicapped people and to children and gave art lessons to Aboriginal children in Central Australia. She wrote scripts for and directed experimental 8mm and 16mm films and presented an Australian television series about health matters. She also taught English and translated books and texts. From 1991-199, Redpath qualified as an authorized teacher of the Feldenkrais method.
In 1993 she began working as the section head´s assistant of the Berlinale “Kinderfilmfest” and in 2002, she became the deputy head. In May 2008, she was appointed head of the section, which had been re-labelled “Generation” in 2006. Since 2004 she has been the official Berlinale Delegate for Australia and New Zealand. In 2011 Redpath became a voting member of the Asian Pacific Film Academy (APSA) and was also involved in setting up the inaugural Young Audience Award for the European Film Academy. Furthermore, she is the head curator of the Berlinale special series “NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema”, which was launched in 2013.
“Fade to Her” has caught with Maryanne Redpath just in time for this year’s Berlinale, to discuss the 2018 “Generation” selection.
The Berlinale is one of the few A-list film festivals with a program dedicated to children and young people. Why do you think is that?
Maryanne Redpath: This is not a question for me to answer. Perhaps one could approach those A-list festivals to find out why it is so. For the Berlinale, it’s about the recognition and perception of young people in Film, as audiences, and in everyday life. It’s about the place of young people in culture, in politics and in society. How are young people portrayed in films? How are those films presented? How does a festival approach and communicate with young people to get them into the cinemas? “Generation” has a solid standing within the Berlinale – it’s a good place to be.
The “Generation” section is a place of encounters between people of all ages. Can you comment on that?
M.R.: At “Generation”, there are two competition-programmes: “Kplus” and “14plus”. We make age recommendation for each film in the Kplus competition, starting with four years and up, through to thirteen years and up. At 14plus, it’s fourteen years and up, as the name indicates. This means that the audience demographic only has a limit at what age you can start watching a film. As well, we screen films which aren’t necessarily made with a young audience in mind, films which cannot be clearly defined as ‘children’s film’ – a label which, as we know, comes with all sorts of judgmental expectations. When one understands and embraces this, audiences of all ages can feel comfortable encountering each other on eye-level in the “Generation” cinemas.
How does the “Generation” section contribute to the education of children and young people, both in terms of film literacy and in general?
M.R.: Our main aim is not at all educational. I see this as a healthy side-product of a great cinematic experience – for people of all ages. We are not in the business of training. However “Generation” does host the “Berlinale School Project” which accompanies some teachers and their classes through the programme with the aid of two media-educationalists. It sometimes amazes me to see how a “Generation” film can create an impulse for certain subjects at school – mathematics, history, natural sciences. We do not have the capacity to introduce film-literacy into the school system, but this project gives healthy impetus in this direction.
In that sense, how big a part does the feedback after the screenings play in that?
M.R.: “Generation” Q &As after the screenings are legendary, at least for the filmmakers and their casts and crews. The young audiences are very direct and honest in their feedback. After a screening and depending on the film, it is important for young people to connect with each other and also with those responsible for the film’s creation. Good cinema provides a space for reflection, identification and for dreaming – it can open doors and change lives. The Q &As are also an impulse for audiences to continue the conversations that began there.
How has the “Generation” section evolved over the years? What have you brought to it?
M.R.: In 2004, the decision was made to extend the section by introducing “14plus” and soon after the name was changed from “Kinderfilmfest” to “Generation”. The section grew even more rapidly in popularity since then with more than twice as many films and soaring audience statistics. “Generation” has become a recognized platform for filmmakers to launch their films and every year more and more filmmakers send us their films for consideration so that the selection processes have become very intense.
How would you qualify your artistic direction? Do you think that because you are a female programmer, you give your section a different flair and sensibility? What do you look for in films and why?
M.R.: The selection process together with the two selection committees is an intense and rewarding experience. It is important to have the right people to watch and discuss the films with. I think it is important to acknowledge that each individual brings his or her own perspective on the films into the arena. I am both a programmer and I am female. I do not have to search hard for good films made by women. This year, we have a female director quota of 51%. I’m looking for films made with young people, not about them. Stories which explore the boundaries of form, structure and content, which do not betray their secrets, which offer glimpses into the lives and concerns of young protagonists at their eye-level, which reflect upon reality in truly fantastic ways. Quite often, my connection with a film is emotional, long before I understand and can be articulate about it.
The first press release regarding this year’s “Generation” selection called “Hell-bent women – on both sides of the camera” states, among other facts, the following: “striking is the wide range of female perspectives on display – expressing solidarity with the less powerful, defiant, rebellious and hell-bent on their aims: At the heart of the selection are girls and young women fighting to gain control of their own destinies, against all odds and external opposition.” Can you elaborate on that?
M.R.: This year the female director quota is at around 53%, a little higher than last year. We welcome that! Of course, we are aware of the importance of female representation in Cinema – and everywhere else – but it was not our direct aim during the long months of selection screenings to reach a certain statistic. It was, however, a pleasure to select many films made by women in key positions. I am interested in the expression and diversity of the female gaze and what that means and recognize how important it is to explore and develop possibilities there within our Berlinale context. Discovering great films is always a process of becoming aware of new possibilities and the willingness to let oneself become enriched by the enormous potential of diverse forms of cinematic storytelling. Thus these female stories and their protagonists – the hell-bent women in front of the camera – are at the heart of this year’s Generation program. It is simply great to witness girls and young women – as well as young men – breaking away from standard assumptions of how it is supposed they should behave, thereby enhancing a fresh and powerful Cinema with exciting new role-models especially – but not only – for young people.
This year’s selection is labeled “Giving the oppressed a voice”? Can you explain that? What can you say about it?
M.R.: In the case of Generation, it is usually children and teenagers who are oppressed and put under pressure by their surroundings. When these young people come up against the failure of rigidly defined structures and often repressive systems of politics, religion, culture, society, law and family they have no choice but to react. And they discover that they have a voice, which they begin to raise in defiance, fighting their way out of isolation onto the big screen. Being seen and being heard. In the Generation program, you can witness smaller and bigger up-risings which reflect on the resilience of young people and their desire and ability to change things. Cinematic imagery can also act as the agent of oppression. At Generation, we scrutinize this in order to deliver outstanding film programs which travel far beyond cliché representation. The intersectionality of who is oppressed can be witnessed across the whole program.
What about the short films in “Generation”? What is your opinion of them and how important do you think they are?
M.R.: The “Generation” short film programs have become very popular – the cinemas are always booked out for these screenings. I love the short form – it’s possible to explore totally outrageous combinations of form and content and at the same time it’s completely up to the eye of the beholder. Once again in this year’s programme the short films are political and challenging, contemporary, in and out of rhythm, funny, to the point – and much more.
In that regard, how does “Generation” manage to keep being successful without getting lost in the immensity of the Berlinale machine?
M.R.: “Generation” has a strong standing within the festival and outside of the festival. We are confident about that. When one accepts that one is a part of a big machine, in the knowledge that it is an important part, there is no sense of frustration or wanting to get more attention. But, of course, there is always room for improvement.
Women in Film is a hot topic now. What is your opinion on the current situation of women in the film industry?
M.R.: I grew up in New Zealand, the first country in this world that gave women the vote. Feminism is in my DNA. I welcome the fact that finally there is more awareness about women in the film industry and I am optimistic that things will change for the better because of this.
What’s in store for Generation for next editions?
M.R.: Looking forward to this edition first of all. Then, going with the flow…